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World Cup Interview: Alexander Baumjohann

Interview: Alexander Baumjohann
Few in the world of football can boast of a CV that has the likes of Bayern Munich, Schalke 04, Borussia Mönchengladbach, 1. FC Kaiserslautern, and Hertha Berlin in their career history. Attacking midfielder Alexander Baumjohann has exactly that and, in the midst that rumours of a move to the K League may be in the offing, the former German U21 International spoke to K League United about next Wednesday's World Cup Group F clash between South Korea and Germany.
(Image via Rauchensteiner/Augenklick)

The attacking midfielder from Waltrop, a small town in the North West of Germany in the Recklinghausen district, has recently become a free agent after his contract with Esporte Clube Vitória in Brazil's Serie A expired and, after following K League United on Twitter, rumours began to circulate that a move to the K League may be in the offing for the 31-year-old.

Speaking exclusively to K League United, Baumjohann said:

"I am just checking all options now. I cancelled my contract here at Vitória today. One of my best friends played for more than five years in Korea. He said it's pretty nice."

That friend is of course Eduardo Gonçalves de Oliveira, or simply Edu as he was known by to fans of Suwon Bluewings and Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors until his retirement last season. The pair were teammates at Schalke between 2010 and 2012 before the Brazilian returned to Asia with Liaoning Whowin in China and later Jeonbuk in 2015.

Baumjohann celebrates a UEFA Champions League goal with Edu whilst with Shalke 04 (Image via Foto Esultzana)
But, with the World Cup still in full swing, and with Baumjohann being vastly familiar with many of those pulling on the famous white shirt for 'Die Mannschaft', K League United wanted to pick his brain about how next Wednesday's final Group F match will play out, what he thinks of Germany's chances are of retaining the World Cup, and how he knew that Son Heungmin was destined to become a star even as a teenager.

Paul Neat: Your former teammate Mesut Özil recently said that his dream is to beat England in the World Cup Final, do you think this Germany side have what it takes to defend their Championship?

Alexander Baumjohann: "Yes, I think Germany has a very strong team again with fantastic players. Even with the loss in the first game against Mexico they are one of the teams that will go very far. I still think that they will be champions again.

PN: Many of the current Germany squad will be very familiar to you, particularly the likes of Manuel Neuer and Julian Draxler with whom you played with whilst at Schalke 04. Neuer is just coming back from a long injury and Draxler went to the 2014 World Cup but only made one sub appearance; how important do you think those two will be in Russia?

Raul (L), Alexander Baumjohann (2nd left) with current Germany number one Manuel Neuer (centre). Image via Getty/UEFA
AB: I played with a lot of players of the current squad. Especially at Bayern Munich and in the youth national teams. Manuel Neuer is one of my best friends and for me the best goalkeeper of all time. It is so important that he got fit for the World Cup. Julian Draxler is also a good friend of mine. He was still very young in 2014 but he is also very important now and for me one of the biggest talents in the German squad.

PN: You also played with Sandro Wagner who, despite scoring five in qualifying, wasn’t included in the squad, was that a surprise?

AB: Sandro Wagner really scored a lot of goals in the last three years and improved a lot but it was not a big surprise for me that he was not called up for the World Cup. Leroy Sané was the biggest surprise; I really don't understand why the coach didn't call him. We have no other player with his quality of speed.

PN: As someone who has played against Son Heungmin and Koo Jacheol over the years in the Bundesliga, what sort of qualities do they bring and do you think Germany will need to be wary of them? Do you think it’s a tougher game than people might think?

AB: Korea has a good team with some excellent players like Son and Koo but I think, especially after Germany's loss in the first game, there is no chance for Korea to beat them because Germany has to win both games now. I feel really sorry for that because I wanted to see Germany and Korea in the next round.

PN: Comparisons could be made between yourself and Son: attacking midfielders, good from dead balls and are predominately right-footed. At the moment he is Korea’s biggest star and the highest Korean goalscorer in Europe of all time - even when he was at Hamburger SV and later Bayer Leverkusen could you see the talent and potential?

A young Son Heungmin playing for Hamurger SV (Image via Goal)
AB: I think Son and I are a little bit different. He plays more on the wing and my best position is in the middle. His biggest quality is to score goals but I think we would be a great combination in the same team. I love to play with players like him who always go directly to the goal. My strength is passing and assists. He is a very good player and I saw that already when he was very young at HSV. I knew that he could be a big player one day and maybe the best Korean player ever if he continues playing the way he is at the moment.

PN: Finally, Wednesday's game will be the first time Korea and Germany have faced each other since the 2002 World Cup in Korea, how do you think the game will go?  Any predictions?

AB: I feel really sorry but, after the first game, Germany has to win the next two and there will be no chance for Korea. I think it will be 3-1 to Germany.

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